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Stopping School Violence: A Community Responsibility

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho was quick to react to the shooting of two police detectives Monday night.

But that’s not surprising if you follow Carvalho’s Twitter feed.

The 2014 National Superintendent of the Year has been extremely vocal about the violence afflicting Miami’s inner city, the harmful impact it has on area students, and the need for the local community to help to prevent incidents of gun violence and assault.

On the same day as the assault on the two police officers, Carvalho also tweeted about the shooting of a 16-year old teenager:

While much of the violence Carvalho comments on occurs outside of schools, he’s well aware of the impact that violence has on the broader community, including students and parents—and he’s not afraid to call for change.

Carvalho makes no secret of the role that he believes that all schools and communities play in fighting the scourge of violence in inner-city communities.

Here’s three ways Carvalho and M-DCPS leverage the power of community engagement and partnership to fight violence, both inside and outside school.

1. See something, say something

In 2014, M-DCPS was the first school district in the country to partner with the Department of Homeland Security in the “If you see something, say something” campaign.

The campaign encourages students, staff, and community members to report suspicious activity that might lead to school violence.

As Carvalho said at the time of the program’s launch, “We need our community to be our eyes and ears and to have the courage to break the silence.”

Just this February, the campaign led to the arrest of four Miami Norland Senior High School students who brought a gun on school grounds, as CBS Miami reports.

2. Together for Children

A year ago, M-DCPS joined other government and community partners to launch the Together for Children initiative.

The campaign engages students, parents, and community members in underserved neighborhoods where violence is a problem. Through workshops and surveys, community members provide feedback and suggest ideas about how to make a turnaround.

Want more on how to prevent violence in schools? Read Is communication the key to preventing school violence?

This feedback, coupled with the use of accurate community violence and housing data, will be used to help develop action plans that make safety a priority.

Instead of a top-down edict, this approach prioritizes the input of the students and families who will be actively affected by the campaign’s outcome.

3. The O, Miami Poetry Bus

Launched just this week, the O, Miami Poetry bus is a partnership between M-DCPS, the Miami transit authority and other community groups. Its aim is to provide students a way to express themselves through poetry and share their writing with community members.

Carvalho says the initiative will help students who grow up in violent situations express themselves in a healthy way.

As he told News 7 Miami:

“A lot of these kids come from poverty. They live in violent communities. This offers them a respite from troubled conditions out there. Here they can put their words and their emotions on paper through words rather than fists and guns.”

What do you think of Carvalho’s community-based approach to fighting violence? What steps are your schools taking to help make their communities safer?  Tell us in the comments.